Would My Boss Need A Note From My Doctor About My Allergy Meds Too?

Julie Gillis believes employers should be prevented from getting involved in your medical history.

So I just saw this outrageously-titled gem on Jezebel, and believe me, I am NOT trying to add additional fuel to the fire that is the raging debate on oral contraceptives, the federal government, insurance companies and the Church.

Believe me. Cause now we have Viagra bills in the mix.

But I clicked on Jezebel’s link to the Arizona State Press and read this article about a bill endorsed by the Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee which would allow employers to ask for proof of a “medical” prescription if the seek the pill for use other then for the non-baby-having variety.

Arizona House Bill 2625, authored by Majority Whip Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale, would permit employers to ask their employees for proof of medical prescription if they seek contraceptives for non-reproductive purposes, such as hormone control or acne treatment.

The more I see bills like this, the more I wonder if it’s about BC at all anymore. I mean, if we create a system in which employers can require knowing such personal things about you in order for you to get medicines, medicines that are private and discussed between you and your PRIVATE medical doctor, then what else can’t they require of you?

I find that thought scary. I realize right now it’s about the ladybusiness, but husbands and male partners are certainly affected by loss of consistent BC. Male employers who don’t want to participate in reviewing medical records may be affected and (I do know I’m sounding a bit paranoid here) but I’m really concerned about the farther reaching implications for anyone who may need/want to take a legally prescribed medication on an insurance plan (which may not be controversial at this time, but who knows in the future), and is required to bring proof to their employer about why.

So let’s think about men. I think if all of us were smart we’d look at the huge picture here, men and women both, ramp down the hyperbole and look at what kind of seriously weird relationships are being forged between government and employers and how that affects OUR relationship with privacy.

What happens when there is focus on the following: Drugs that support sexual health and function come to mind (like the Viagra article above), any medication focused on prostate health, medicines for mental health certainly. What about drugs or procedures that are designed to deal with infertility? Vasectomies? Once a procedure like RISUG is available here? Proof your anti-virals aren’t for HIV/Herpes/HPV suppression?

What about drugs that repair damage done by “irresponsible life choices” such cholesterol lowering drugs for those eating too much red meat, or diabetes meds, smoking patches, and more.

Is the bill (and other fights like it) a stepping stone towards the eradication of HIPPA and EEOC? Cause the reach seems kind of out of control to me.

Decisions we make with our doctors should be private. While I appreciate the desire for a religious exemption, I don’t want anyone’s right to privacy eroded, nor do I want anyone’s employer to get to peek at medical records because they don’t like what someone is doing. I’m also getting a little frustrated with playing political football with people’s access to medicine.

Is there another way through this mess? Ideas? Surely, we can do better than this!


Photo courtesy of Fillmore Photography

About Julie Gillis

Julie Gillis is a coach, writer, and producer focused on social justice, sex, and spirituality. She is dedicated to sexual freedom and education, equality for the LGBTQ community, and ending sexual violence. Julie intuitively helps people live their fullest lives, navigating terrain from relationships to sex education. She writes at The Austin Chronicle, Good Vibes Magazine, Flurtsite and JulieGillis.com. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter@JulesAboutTown


  1. Great article. I find it very troubling that an employer needs to know anything about your health at all, I think in Australia we may even have laws which prevent them asking! This whole birth control issue sounds insane, the politics in the US seem pretty damn infuriating…

  2. Richard Aubrey says:

    I believe the discussion is about who pays for what a woman does to her body. Only if you conflate “prohibit” with “refuses to pay for” is there any prohibition.
    That excludes abortion where some think the question is who gets to decide what’s done to the kid’s body.

    • Birdie-El says:

      I guess where I’m having trouble is that most healthcare plans are paid for by us, the consumers. Yes, there are some government regulations, but we’re paying for our own plans, except for Medicare/Medicaid recipients.

      So people are getting up in arms because women want coverage that they paid for from their own pocketbooks. Hmm.

      This ties into my previous point. Many people believe mental health should not be covered. My state legislature, for one. The insurer of last resort doesn’t cover it – so for a family, even if they shell out 24-36K a year just for bare-bones insurance, they’re not getting mental health coverage. My state legislature decided they were morally opposed to paying for it. I know people who used to be the primary breadwinners, supporting their families, etc. until they lost their jobs and had to pay for their own health coverage. Now, they’re non-functional, spend every year going in and out of the hospital – and they’re on welfare.

      There are also numerous women who have endometriosis (a crippling pelvic pain disorder treatable with birth control), and some of them wind up on SSDI too. After being denied birth control, the pelvic growths causing the crushing pain explode in number. The condition is often progressive. Some women with this condition are laid up, spending most of their time in bed, robbed of their ability to work or care for their children.

      So I guess we can bring morality into health-care coverage. But the end result will be a public that’s in worse health and has higher rates of disability than currently. And the rest of us will pay – a lot more, too – because we felt it too immoral or inconvenient to spend a bit of money up-front for preventative care.

  3. now you are beginning to understand how women feel having all these politicians discuss what she may or may not do with her body

  4. Richard Aubrey says:


    “far-right, who envisions an arbitrary meritocracy when determining who is and isn’t “deserving.”
    Do you have a cite for this or is it frustration leading to exaggeration?

    You may not agree with salt and sugar regulation, but if you vote dem, you’re getting closer. See, when the government does it, they don’t care if you agree. You have to pay a ‘crat or congresscritter a lot of money to get an exception if you don’t “agree”.

    • Birdie-El says:

      Yes, and unfortunately I make a lot of compromises when voting for Democrats, especially these days when the party has gone so pro-war, devised a public education system that cheats students, provides billions in NSA welfare to failing companies, and is willing to execute American citizens without a fair trial. The salt issue you mention is minor compared to the political and moral compromises I make.

      Unfortunately, the rhetoric on the Right, which asserts that one’s access to healthcare should be limited by how much s/he can afford to pay for it, does not bode in my favor. The current pre-existing condition exclusions some states have in place currently make me ineligible to purchase insurance on my own, for example. (This varies by state – but my state is among the worst for people lacking perfect health records. I can’t afford the plan offered by the “insurer of last resort,” literally or figuratively – it has sky-high deductibles, costs 2K a month for a married couple, and covers nothing.)

      Like many others, I have to be a hypocrite about my values when I vote. Acting in a strictly rational fashion or only voting for those positions that align perfectly with liberal libertarianism ensures my access to healthcare continues to be limited or completely blocked. It’s too bad I can’t be consistent, but I need to vote as if my life depended on it on this particular issue. I’ve tried buying healthcare under a free-market system, and went uninsured for five years as a result. The free-market system works wonderfully for young people, especially young men, with no health needs or health histories. As a lifelong sufferer of panic disorder that’s been a challenge to treat, it leaves me out in the cold, resulting in me being so non-functional that I can’t work. I’d rather pay slightly higher health premiums to cover everyone than pay for SSDI for myself and millions of other under-served mental health patients. Given proper treatment, many people with mental health issues like mine can operate well in mainstream society – but without it, we don’t stand a chance. In my case, I’m still picking up the pieces from the five years I went without care.

      I’m sorry if my political hypocrisy frustrates or angers you. I know Obamacare has many downsides, and believe me, I don’t like the plan much either. If not for the mandate to cover everyone, regardless of health record, I’d be 100 percent against it. As it is, it’s not a very good plan.

  5. Richard Aubrey says:

    If you’re concerned about power and control, see NYC and salt. Some scientists are calling for the regulation of sugar. I didn’t vote for these clowns, but I’m going to get what I don’t deserve, just as those who did will get what they damn’ well deserve.
    My father was supposedly the fastest end in whatever conference UConn was in before the war. 6’1 1/2″ 185. By today’s standards, he’s overweight. I got out of OCS overworked, underfed, overstressed, at 6’2″, 205. I could whip a tiger except, if the tiger had looked me in the eye, it would have slunk away. After three weeks drinking and eating over Christmas, I was still in good enough shape that the physical requirements of the fabled and fearsome Airborne School were a joke. According to current standards, I’d be overweight.
    IOW, the feds are ratcheting down the tables to justify claims of an epidemic of obesity. Your employer’s control, to the extent it exists, won’t be jack compared to what Michelle and the nanny-staters have in mind.

    • Birdie-El says:

      See, I also agree with you, that we need not control the people with salt limits and junk-food taxes. Some people will make healthy choices and others won’t. Let the people decide for themselves what they eat or don’t eat.

      My issue with making the distinction between insurance that covers someone who “truly needs it” vs. someone who “didn’t take personal responsibility,” is that the line between the two is razor-thin and subject to endless debate. I take Xanax for panic disorder, and I’ve met countless people who feel that the panic disorder was “my choice” and was a matter of “not taking control over my emotions.” I’ve been lectured at to improve my diet and exercise, too, as if it weren’t already evident by my habit of walking 4 miles a day, eating a plant-rich, all-vegetarian diet, and suffering from panic just the same, that diet and exercise alone don’t cure panic attacks.

      I don’t want a government that polices how much I salt my food. At the same time, I don’t feel like handing my healthcare over to the far-right, who envisions an arbitrary meritocracy when determining who is and isn’t “deserving.” As a mental health patient, I’m well aware that public opinion may not come down in my favor, and I’d like to be able to take solace in a modicum of protection – and be able to afford the treatments that keep me a marginally productive member of society.

      Of course, I could always throw in the towel and go apply for SSDI. The way certain people talk about how awful it is to cover mental health, I get the feeling that’s what they actually want me to do. I’m trying to keep being a productive tax-paying citizen here, but those aghast at the inconvenience of fully covering mental health patients are systemically removing the very thing assisting me in the path to self-sufficiency.

      It’s tough all over I guess. Everyone feels his views are ignored, and his needs aren’t being met. I’ve learned that we all share that opinion, regardless of where we fall on the political spectrum.

  6. Julie,

    I think that part of the problem here is that you don’t really seem to accept the arguments of your opponents at face value.

    For a great many of us that oppose(d) universal health care, it really is just about economics. Yet your analysis seems inextricably linked to ideas like “control” and “power.”

    I’m a man in my 20s. I’ve never smoked, and I exercise 6 times a week (sometimes only 5 if I’m really busy). I know that my family has a history of heart disease, so I try to avoid foods high in cholesterol and saturated fats. Because of my age (and my decision to pursue a graduate degree), I have not yet had to chance to start a family.

    At every job I have held, my youth and health is used by my employer to subsidize older, less healthy employees and their families.

    When I am performing substantially the same job as someone else, it’s not fair if they get paid considerably more in benefits because they have chosen to smoke, choose to not exercise, and have chosen to have children. The pay differential is often in the thousands of dollars per year, and easily in the tens, or hundreds of thousands of dollars when extended over my working life.

    Fortunately, more and more employers are offering discounts on health insurance to employees to live healthier lifestyles. In order for this trend to continue, it’s necessary for employers to have an accurate health picture for their employees.

    Of course, there should be controls to protect people with congenital conditions, but when we’re talking about volitional choices, it’s not fair to force me to subsidize others.

    Note that this has nothing to do with “control” or “power” and everything to do with my simple wish to get paid for the job I do, rather than penalized for making responsible life choices.

    • Birdie-El says:

      Mike, I understand why you’re upset at being forced to subsidize others’ life choices. I’ve run a small side business for nearly a decade, and am taxed at a 35 percent rate for the privilege. It angers me that I am forced to subsidize the irresponsible business decisions of the “too-big-to-fail” companies that received bailout money, and that companies like GE can hide their profits in overseas tax shelters, forcing me and other Americans to pay more than our “fair share.”

      Suppose you suddenly came down with an expensive and life-threatening illness that was treatable, but would cost eight figures out of pocket to cure you? Or what if you developed kidney stones that required tens of thousands of dollars in hospital care and morphine drips to treat?

      Would you be grateful for others to pay for your care, or would you feel that it’s not right for them to have to pay for you, because it’s not their problem? If you feel the latter view is closest to yours, then why even bother with insurance? You can take responsibility for your own health costs, and in return, not need to worry about others’. You might find yourself with expensive bills someday, but you’ll just have to take that risk – and hey, at least you’re not paying for other people’s care.

      I bankroll many things I don’t agree with via my tax dollars. Organized religion, for one – yep, I’m bankrolling all the tax-exempt churches in America. The military, for another. I’d love to only pay taxes toward the “causes” I feel are worthy, but the system doesn’t work that way. At least with private insurance, the people are paying for it rather then the government.

      And speaking of insurance, I’d love to “opt-out” of having my health dollars go toward treating any person who wants me to go back to the kitchen, give birth at state gunpoint, and generally live under the duress of enforced state Christianity. I mean, why should I “help them out?” They hate me and want to strip me of my human agency, so why don’t I have the “right” to treat them with an equal amount of disdain?

      Because life doesn’t work that way. I know a couple people who wish it did, and they’re anarchists living in communes. Short of leaving the country, joining a commune and living off the land is as close as you’ll get to the “personal responsibility” utopia.

  7. Richard Aubrey says:

    The amount of medical information your employer may have is pretty limited. You’ll recall that even asking about health is illegal in job interviews.
    If it’s about drugs, I suspect letting the drugged folks go first would be sensible.
    I have heard from businessmen that it is illegal to put such info into reference requests. Have to check that out sometime.
    But perhaps this is a place for a medical vs. voting analogy. If you have enough ID to buy house-brand sudafed for youir allergies, you can pass any voter ID requirement. If you insist that many people don’t and can’t have such ID, then whoever’s buying them their little red pills is committing a crime.

    • There are certain drugs which are only prescribed for certain ailments and anyone with a basic knowlege can figure it out (ex: you take statins for heart trouble). Plus , in the case of ‘Random tests’ it’s a case of ‘Guilty until proven innocent’. Look, I’ve never done drugs in my entire life! (Iguess that sounds rather lame by todays standards). So I don’t worry personally about a drug test. I’m just concerned where this all might be leading to. Where I live there’s already one major employer who insists that all his employees must be ‘Tobacco Free’ even off the premises. While tobacco certainly is not a healthy choice, here in New York , it’s legal for people over 19 years of age! It’s a really short hop from this to the things Julie expressed worry about. The thing that really gets me, IT’S ALL ABOUT MONEY! As in lower insurance prememums! The fact that my industry gets away with it just means to me that it will be everywhere soon.

      • Peter Houlihan says:

        Where its a major safety concern like keeping everyone on a building site sober then I think its warranted. Maybe the test results should only be shown to your employer if they contain illegal drugs and they don’t get to see the form you submit with the medical information about your prescription drugs? That way they are assured you’re not on anything you shouldn’t be and only some anonymous lab tech sees your raw data.

        • That would be nice Peter, but that’s not the way it works. Look, I’ve been in this business for over 36 years and when I first started, drinking beer on the job was a way of life(Hell, the job super more often than not would buy the beer!). Times have changed and for the better in that reguard. All I want to do is go to work, do my job, and go home. As I said, I never did drugs,I’ve certainly never tested ‘dirty’, so please stop treating me as a criminal who just ‘Hasn’t gotten caught yet’. All you who work in offices and say” People who work in construction should be tested”, I wonder if you’ll feel the same when they show up at your job with the plastic cups!

          • Peter Houlihan says:

            Bring it on. If it saves lives I’m all for it. I take your point that I’m not someone who’s personally affected by it though.

            If I were asked to be tested I’d seriously consider refusing if I thought my confidential medical information would be seen by anyone who didn’t absolutely have to, and I don’t at all blame you for getting angry about that. I would be too.

            Incidentally, how would you feel about it if your boss only ever saw a letter from the testing lab saying “So and so is drug free?”

            • “Incidentally, how would feel aboutit if your boss only ever saw a letter from the testing lab saying “so and so is drug free?”” Peter, as I said previouslly , That would be reasonable, BUT THAT’S NOT HOW IT IS!!! The jobs that I’ve been on where drug testing takes place, every drug that any one’s taking(especially a drug like Valtrex, which is for Genital Herpes) becomes general knowledge through gossip. Of course, no one will admit to these ‘leaks’, but you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out it came from the job office trailer.

  8. Richard Aubrey says:

    Jack. HIPPAA is supposed to protect privacy. There are exceptions, some of them make sense, others don’t.
    Drug tests for using heavy machinery make sense. If a guy shows up drugged out if his mind and runs over your father, will you refrain from suing the employer? Of course not.
    Don’t eat a poppy seed bagel before such a test, either.
    You can blame the folks who are trying to avoid having equipment that will turn around and bite you if your attention strays for an instant–they do not do their hard work at keyboards–run by druggies, or you can blame guys who won’t come to work straight, making this necessary.
    You always need a doctor’s note for a scrip. Not sure where an employer comes in.
    But keep in mind that these are the clowns we elect. We need a better class of voter.

    • My point was not so much the drug testing itself (which yes, is done in the interest of safety) . It’s the fact that ,you must in a round about way, submit your medical history to your employer. Who,by the way, doesn’t provide our medical coverage (I get that through my union). As jobs near completion and work forces are reduced, who’s to say, armed with this imformation, thatmanagement does’t use this indeciding who to ‘let go’ and who to keep on?

  9. Jack Varnell says:

    Isn’t this what HIPAA Laws were created to prevent?

  10. Julie, what you speak of already exists for the men (and women) in my profession, it has for quite some time. I work in heavy construction and many jobsites now require you to submit to a drug test at the beginning of your employment on the jobsite and also you are subject to ‘random’ test along the way. Anyone with a C.D.L. (Commericial Drivers License) is also subject to random tests. When taking these tests you must submit proof of any and all priscription drugs you are taking. If there is an accident on the job, all involved must submit to a drug test. I personally know of one man who was fired because he ‘borrowed’ a percoset from someone for a toothache and got tested. Big Brother is watching!

    • Peter Houlihan says:

      I could kind of understand that rational, if the pill came with a warning not to operate heavy machinary.

  11. Is there another way through this mess? Ideas? Surely, we can do better than this!
    This whole, “Well oh yeah! I’ll do this!” back and forth thing is out of hand.


  1. […] and image previously published on Good Men Project, March 15, […]

Speak Your Mind